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Different story

Lakers unable to win without Bryant

Click here for more on this story

Posted: Monday June 12, 2000 12:00 AM

  Shaquille O'Neal Shaquille O'Neal found things tougher in Game 3 with more intense Pacer double teams. AP

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Los Angeles Lakers did just fine without Kobe Bryant for most of Game 2 in the NBA Finals.

It was a different story in Game 3.

With Bryant sidelined because of a sprained left ankle, the Lakers never led in dropping a 100-91 decision to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night, trimming their lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.

"We were battling uphill it seemed like the whole time in the second half," said Derek Fisher, who had 10 points and 10 assists in a losing cause. "We couldn't get over the hump."

The Lakers trailed by as many as 18 points late in the third quarter before rallying within three in the late going.

"It's not a major shift in momentum," Lakers guard Ron Harper said of the Indiana victory. "We killed ourselves. We know we didn't do some stuff. We should have had this game. So, we are still fine.

"We knew they were going to play harder at home. They've got their fans, and they play good at home. We knew that. But we had a chance, I thought."

Bryant's absence was noticeable on both ends of the court as the Lakers were unable to replace his 21.2-point playoff average or his All-NBA first-team defense abilities.

Bryant sprained his ankle late in the first quarter of Game 2 in Los Angeles on Friday night, and didn't return. However, Harper and Glen Rice picked up the slack with 21 points each to support Shaquille O'Neal, who scored 40.

O'Neal had 33 points and 13 rebounds Sunday night, but didn't get nearly as much help from his teammates as Harper scored 14 points, Rice had just seven and others faltered as well, especially on the backboards.

Indiana, the poorest rebounding team in the NBA during the regular season, outrebounded the Lakers 39-33.

O'Neal was the only Los Angeles player to score in double figures until Robert Horry's jumper 35 seconds into the fourth quarter gave him 10 points.

"They played great defense on Glen tonight," Horry said. "We tried to run. They were right there like they were reading his mind. We have to have a total team effort, not jump on Shaq's back."

Brian Shaw, who started in Bryant's place, scored only six points on 3-of-10 shooting.

The Lakers did a terrific job defending Reggie Miller in the first two games, as the Pacers' star shot 8-of-32. On Sunday, Miller went 11-of-22 in scoring 33 points.

"You knew it was coming, sooner or later," forward Rick Fox said of Miller's offensive production. "They came home and played like they did all year, which was much better than they did at Staples Center [in Los Angeles]."

Even with all their problems, the Lakers drew within four points on Harper's twisting layup with 3:03 remaining, capping a 12-3 run.

They got no closer until Harper made a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left to make it 94-91, but Miller made four foul shots and Jalen Rose added two more to clinch the victory for the Pacers.

The first 90 seconds of the second half personified the kind of night it was for the Lakers, who trailed 53-42 at that stage.

First, Rice simply dropped the ball out of bounds. Then, O'Neal threw up an air ball from close range. Finally, Rice missed everything on a 3-point shot, and looked to an official for a whistle, which never came.

"We didn't play well in the first three quarters," O'Neal said. "It's not really anything they did. We shot ourselves in the foot."

The Pacers missed their first six shots of the third quarter, and the Lakers were in the bonus before the period was three minutes old because of five Indiana fouls.

Those factors helped the Lakers draw within five points, but then, with nobody to stop Miller, the defense collapsed. The Pacers rattled off 12 straight points to extend their lead to 69-52.

O'Neal, who played the entire game, had another difficult night at the foul line, going 3-of-13.

Never were his problems more obvious than early in the fourth quarter, when with the Pacers leading 79-68, he didn't come close on two attempts, and with 1:50 left, when with Indiana ahead 93-87, he missed another pair.

 
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